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Life Jackets Are Key to Boating Safety

As we enter the busy summer boating season, we want to remind our readers about the importance of always taking the proper safety precautions, which includes wearing a life jacket.

Nearly 20 percent of all California boating accidents occur in the month of July. In most cases, the accidents are preventable. The top causes of boat accidents in 2015 were operator inattention, operator inexperience, and speed.

When accidents do occur, wearing a life jacket can be the difference between life and death, particularly if the boat capsizes or the victim falls overboard. Of the boating fatalities that occurred from 2011-2015, more than half of the victims drowned. Of those, 79 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

In many cases, wearing a life jacket is legally required. Under California law, every child under 13 years of age on a moving recreational vessel of any length must wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket in serviceable condition and of a type and size appropriate for the conditions and the activity. The law does not apply to children under 13 years of age who are on a sailboat and are restrained by a harness tethered to the sailboat; in an enclosed cabin; or on a vessel engaged in an emergency rescue situation.

For adults, the U. S. Coast Guard requires recreational vessels to have a wearable life jacket for each person aboard. They must be:

  • U. S. Coast Guard approved
  • The proper size for the intended wearer
  • In good and serviceable condition
  • Readily accessible

In addition, a Coast Guard-approved life jacket must be worn by everyone on a personal watercraft and everyone being towed behind a vessel, i.e. tubing, waterskiing, or wakeboarding.

While life jackets were once cumbersome and uncomfortable, technology has come a long way. Modern life jackets are generally much less restrictive and are available in specific styles that are geared toward the type of water activity, including fishing, personal watercraft riding, cold weather/hunting, and paddling.

If you or someone you care about has suffered serious injury in a California boating accident, don’t hesitate to contact a San Diego injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation. After a serious accident, we can advocate on your behalf to help hold the negligent parties accountable for their actions and seek the compensation you deserve.